THE outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives has been offered the job of US ambassador to China - and turned it down because of his wife's health. Tom Foley, the Democrat who lost his seat and his job in the Republican landslide in the mid-term elections, has confirmed he was sounded out by the White House. But in an interview with The Hill, a magazine covering Capitol Hill politics, Mr Foley said he could not accept the job because the air pollution in Beijing would aggravate his wife's asthma. He said he had never sought the position - one of the diplomatic corps' most sought-after postings - but added: 'In the future, if offered an opportunity to serve in a diplomatic post, I would consider it.' President Bill Clinton has been searching for months for a replacement for Ambassador Stapleton Roy, a career diplomat who is waiting to move to a Bangkok posting. Assistant Defence Secretary Charles Freeman, a China expert, was thought to have been offered the job during the summer, but the deal fell through. Another figure linked with the job was former defence secretary Les Aspin, who did not want it. It has been rumoured for some time that Mr Clinton was waiting until after the elections to see if any outgoing Democrats were suitable for the ambassadorship. But Mr Foley, despite his political credentials, is known for his bluntness. One Washington source said: 'Foley would have been an absolute disaster.' Because he represented a Washington state district, Mr Foley is known for having strong links with Boeing and its trade push into China. But he is not known as a China expert. Mr Foley, 65, has also been touted as a possible successor to Warren Christopher as Secretary of State, but he also ruled that out.